The Big Bang is possible

Contented young people in rural communities, green development and a connection to the digital world – this future scenario is within reach even in Africa, says agronomist Professor Joachim von Braun. For the past three decades, he has been researching areas where policy-makers have opportunities to leverage prosperity on the African continent.

Ich bin ein Alternativtext

By Joachim von Braun

Joachim von Braun

Prof Dr Joachim studied agricultural sciences and currently heads the Center’s Department for Economic and Technological Change. He became Vice-President of the German NGO Welthungerhilfe in 2012.

 

All contributions

Center for Development Research of the University of Bonn

Brot für die Welt

Are new jobs being created in rural or urban settings in Africa?

 

von Braun: In the main, new jobs are emerging in rural areas – but alongside, not in agriculture: in processing factories that preserve and pack vegetables, produce frozen peas and beans and turn mangos into juice. In other words, they are being created downstream in the value chain, closer to the consumer. A lot of this is happening on a fairly small scale. I know a number of small firms which export mango syrup from three-hectare farms in Kenya and India to England. No new jobs are likely to be created in arable farming; in fact, the number of jobs in this sector will probably decrease. In that sense, Africa will mirror what happened in Europe in the past as farmers improve their productivity through the use of technology, mechanisation and better livestock husbandry.

 

In most African countries, the farms are very small – and yet the rural areas seem to be stimulating growth in the cities. Can you explain?

 

Well, let’s think about Germany and where the smallest farms existed in the past and still exist today: in the south-west. Despite that, Baden-Württemberg is now the region with the highest patent density in Germany and the most dynamic SME sector. That’s no coincidence: smallholder farmers have entrepreneurship built into their DNA. In south-western Germany, this has spawned SMEs that now operate in the world market, creating thousands of jobs. And these are jobs for skilled workers – jobs that require a considerable amount of training. Over the long term, this opportunity exists in countless African regions as well.

 

It sounds like a vision for the distant future. Is any structural change taking place in Africa?

 

Economic transformation is happening in Africa, just as it happened in Europe. The agricultural share of GDP is shrinking while industry’s share is expanding, and the service sector is growing even more. The question is simply how hard or soft this landing will be. In other words, to what extent will there be unemployment and a rural-urban exodus, with associated conflicts in cities and rural communities?

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Teilnehmerinnen des Workshops "Rural Future Lab".

 

How can policy-makers shape this process?

 

In many cases, Africa’s countries have developed clear policies and plans for the future. Some of them present a convincing case and should be given funding and development policy support. External planning has very little effect. Broadly speaking, policy-makers should do much more to maintain processing and services in rural regions and prevent the loss of jobs to unproductive service industries in the cities, where young men and women end up sitting in the street selling gum, sim cards and other low-value items. So the first step for policy-makers is to ensure that rural areas have the requisite infrastructure for development – roads, electricity, phone lines, health care. And secondly, partners are needed to leverage investment, and that means promoting the banking sector, credit unions and cooperatives. And the third key factor is technology – for example, to pack and sort farm products, identify gaps in the market, develop business plans and so forth. Development cooperation can make substantial contributions in all these areas.

 

What type of strategy needs to be in place for meaningful expansion of infrastructure?

 

There’s a right way and a wrong way. Our research shows that synergies are greatest where infrastructural expansion is undertaken simultaneously, not consecutively – in other words, what we don’t want is a linear process with roads today, power lines tomorrow and phone connections or fibre optic broadband – which is already being rolled out in Africa – bringing up the rear. Clustering investment has the potential to create a big bang in rural regions. At present, however, investors are still adopting a primarily sectoral approach, which isn’t the right way to go. Some of them are focused on railways while others are prioritising roads, and so on. They need to get round the table with the countries that are developing these plans and coordinate their activities. What’s more, when the word ‘infrastructure’ is mentioned, people tend to think of major roads, not smaller but useful pathways. Our research shows that the economic benefits of path networks far outweigh those achieved with larger transport projects.

 

The big bang theory may be a risky option, though, if all the investment goes to the President’s home region and other areas are left out of the loop.

 

Infrastructure projects are always highly political. In Africa, the main problem is not that corrupt leaders are expanding the infrastructure so it reaches their weekend retreats. The really bad investment decisions tend to be made because so many of these infrastructure projects focus on oil, gas and mining, bypassing development opportunities in rural regions. Short-term resource extraction instead of long-term development is the real problem. So it’s important to support governments by promoting sustainable infrastructure planning.

 

Are international donors partly to blame, as well as national governments, for this wrong development pathway?

 

Definitely. Take South Sudan: the agronomist and freedom fighter John Garang, who died in an accident, believed that his most important legacy was a plan to build roads that led not to the oil and gas deposits but to communities with genuine agricultural development potential. Political developments took a different trajectory. South Sudan is currently in the grip of a resource conflict, which indicates that development-oriented rural infrastructure has been forgotten.

 

Should we be worried about China’s influence?

 

China is depicted as the bad guy, but that’s unjustified, especially where land grabbing is concerned. European investors are probably responsible for more land grabbing than China. In any case, Chinese investment in Africa is now much more development-focused than it was in the past; the construction of railway lines in East Africa is a case in point. I wish the Western donor community had committed to this type of investment a long time ago.

 

Why the omission – and why are things happening now?

 

Infrastructural investment had fallen out of favour. Instead, it was all about urban development. In fact, this was overemphasised in the 1990s, with the result that rural regions and agriculture were left behind. As a further consequence, good infrastructure projects were also neglected. We now need to rethink and reboot our investment in agriculture and rural development. That’s the type of package that will create jobs where young people need them.

 

You mention financing as the second factor of relevance to restructuring. But banks are private sector bodies – so what can policy-makers do?

 

Smallholder farmers need access to credit. Governments can provide cover against credit risks. After all, agriculture is a risky business, especially with climate change having the potential to cause droughts across entire regions, as is happening right now in East Africa. Banks shy away from this risk. A government-sponsored drought insurance scheme can help farmers at high-risk sites gain access to markets. Often, insuring just 10% of the credit sum is sufficient. Organisations such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank and KfW have a key role to play in this context, especially in the least developed countries.

 

For how much longer?

 

In the medium term, we will continue to need some government involvement, as well as engagement by the international institutions. But even in Africa, the banking sector is undergoing radical change, mainly as a result of digitalisation. Innovations such as crowdfunding and crowdfinancing are emerging and are an attractive prospect for small creative companies. In the long term, local banks will be able to take over the task of providing credit facilities to businesses. But with this type of development, it’s impossible to make firm predictions about timeframes.

 

You mentioned technology as the third important driver. Can you give an example?

 

Take the issue of water and sanitation. Sustainable rural development depends on access to clean water. There are still many places where people have to take themselves off into the bush or use unhygienic latrines when they need to go to the toilet. This pollutes local water resources and spreads disease – and it’s also very wasteful, because you can apply smart thinking to human waste. For example, you can use it as a substrate to fatten fly larvae or worms, which not only breaks down the faecal matter but also provides a supply of insects for use as chicken feed. And that raises high-tech questions: which are the most suitable larvae or worms? Which are most digestible, and should they be dried or fresh?

 

What’s the answer?

 

In Nairobi, there is an entire institute – the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) – dedicated to researching these species of insect. If you visit its website (www.icipe.org), you can learn about all sorts of fascinating creatures that you have probably never heard of before and probably don’t want to find out about now!

 

Give us a positive scenario for the future: what will rural Africa look like in 30 years’ time?

 

Famines, such as the present crisis in East Africa, which was caused by a combination of drought and armed conflict, will be a thing of the past. Africa’s rural areas will have caught up with the rest of the world, not just the nearest town or city. The countryside won’t look quite as rural as it does today; instead, it will consist of settlements that are hubs of economic activity offering quality of life, digitally connected, with clean air and water – and a thriving farming and forestry sector. By contrast, the cities will be greener and much more rural in appearance. They, too, will harness the potential of natural resources. Development opportunities will be used to the maximum extent, because education will extend into rural areas and reach children, teenagers and also adults who are keen to learn. This will be possible at affordable prices via digital platforms. In 30 years’ time, the urban-rural divide will be much more fluid. All the African countries will have lifted themselves out of poverty and into the group of middle-income countries.

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Supermarket Scorecard on Human Rights

A contribution by Dr. Franziska Humbert (Oxfam)

Oxfam’s supermarket scorecard, which is in its third year, shows one thing in particular - it works! Supermarkets can change their business policies and focus more on the rights of those people around the world who plant and harvest food. However, this does not happen without pressure. 

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Ms Rudloff, what are the benefits of a supply chain law?

By Jan Rübel

The Federal Government is fine-tuning a law that would require companies to ensure human rights – a supply chain law. What are the consequences for the agricultural sector? Dr Bettina Rudloff from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) discusses linking policy fields with added value.

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Uli Reinhardt/Zeitenspiegel

Bitter fruit

A contribution by Frank Brunner

Why aren’t bars of chocolate made where cocoa is grown? Author Frank Brunner analyses the industry’s fragile value chain from the plantation to the supermarket

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"Soy can be made into more than just flour"

A report by Johanna Steinkühler (GIZ)

The soybean is a natural crop that can be used to make a lot of food. So, Tata Bi started a small processing business first on her own, then with a few other women, which provides the women with an additional source of income year-round besides selling the soybeans.

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Global responsibility: Tackling hunger is the only way forward

A contribution by Lisa Hücking (WHH)

Chancellor Merkel has begun an ambitious European political programme: Striving for compromise in budget negotiations, an orderly Brexit as well as an appropriate response to the corona crisis. Unfortunately, one of her positions that she previously held is nowhere to be found: Africa's prosperity is in the interest of Europe. 

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Africa's face of agriculture is female

A contribution by Beatrice Gakuba (AWAN-AFRIKA)

Africa has a huge opportunity to make agriculture its economic driver. However, the potential for this is far from being made exhaustive use of, one reason being that women face considerable difficulties in their economic activities. The organisation AWAN Afrika seeks to change this state of affairs.

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Freed from trade? Towards a fairer EU Trade Agenda

A contribution by Dr. Jan Orbie (University Gent)

‘Fair’ and ‘sustainable’ are key words in Germany’s EU Council Presidency. At the same time, Germany pursues ‘modernization’ of the WTO and ‘rapid progress’ on free trade agreements. Are these goals really compatible? Can we be concerned about fairness and sustainability while continuing with ‘business as usual’?

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Good health is impossible without healthy food

A contribution by Heino von Meyer

Corona makes it even more difficult to achieve a world without hunger by 2030. So that this perspective does not get out of sight, Germany must play a stronger role internationally - a summary of the Strategic Advisory Group of SEWOH.

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Hier steht eine Bildbeschreibung

Statement from GAFSP Co-Chairs: GAFSP and COVID-19 Pandemic

A contribution by GAFSP

COVID-19 has unprecedented effects on the world. As always, the most vulnerable are the hardest hit, both at home and - especially - abroad. A joint appeal by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) and the Department for International Development (DFID).

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(c) Michael Bruentrup/DIE

News from the starting block: Changeover

A contribution by Michael Brüntrup (DIE)

The region of Sub-Saharan Africa is on the decisive verge of a great development boost in farming: it could skip entire generations of technological development. But how? About possible roles and potentials of digital services.

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(c) Privat

The 'Grey Gold'

A contribution by Maria Schmidt (GIZ)

The Cashew Council is the first international organisation for a raw material stemming from Africa. The industry promises to make progress in processing and refining cashew nuts - and answers to climate change

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No rainforest for our consumption

A contribution by Jenny Walther-Thoß (WWF)

In the tropics rainforests are still being felled for the production of palm oil, meat and furniture. It is high time to act. Proposals are on the table.

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How much do we actually waste, Mr. McFeely?

An interview with Peter McFeely (WWF)

The WWF has published a sensational study on food waste. The focus: farm-stage food waste. Peter McFeely, Global head of communications and strategic planning at WWF, explains what needs to be done.

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(c) GIZ

Sustainable Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture in Rural Areas

Fish is important for combating malnutrition and undernourishment. But it is not only notable for its nutritional value, but also secures the livelihoods and employment for 600 million people worldwide.

A Project of GIZ

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Nine Harvests Left until 2030: How Will the BMZ Organise Itself in the Future?

An Interview with Dirk Schattschneider (BMZ)

"One World no Hunger" (SEWOH) becomes one of the five core themes of the BMZ. Dirk Schattschneider, SEWOH Commissioner about previous approaches, future areas of action, and the political will to end hunger.

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The Future of Development Politics: Voices from the Parliamentary Groups

A Contribution by Journalist Jan Rübel

Representatives of the six parliamentary groups offer their views on the future of German development cooperation.

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Côte d’Ivoire: The Future Starts With Food

A Contribution by GIZ

How nutrition trainer Edwige helps cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire to prepare for a healthier future.

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Five tips to reduce food waste

A listicle against food waste

Whether it's banana bread made from brown bananas, conscious shopping plans or foodsharing, we give you five tips on how to reduce your everyday food waste.

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The Case for Fair Fashion

A Contribution by Jan Rübel

On the podcast ‘From the Field to the Shelf’, Marie Nasemann calls for new attempts to promote fair fashion. An evening about burnt returns, filterless washing machines and a lot of room for improvement.

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Knowledge about spice production

A listicle regarding spice production

The global trade in spices currently has a volume of over 10 billion euros. But at what price do these spices refine our Christmas cuisine? On closer inspection, aspects of the value chain leave a bitter taste.

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New legal initiatives towards deforestation-free supply chains as a game changer

A Contribution by Gerhard Langenberger

Regarding deforestation free supply chains, there are challenges and opportunities for smallholder farmers as well as for international forest governance. Also, responsibilities for companies and potential incentives for manufacturers to use materials from fair trade and sustainable sources need to be explored. But what does “deforestation-free” actually mean?

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Achieving more together – New forms of cooperation for sustainability in the cotton sector

A Contribution by Saskia Widenhorn

Saskia Widenhorn, Head of the Cotton Component in Cameroon and the Sub-Saharan Cotton Initiative at GIZ, reports on the Bremer Cotton Week, which brought together international industry experts. The agenda included supply chain transparency, sustainability and new forms of cooperation between the private sector and partner countries.

 

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David versus Goliath: Consequences of mainstream agricultural export commodities and niche products

An Artikel by the Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA)

A study published by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) examines the differences between globally traded agricultural commodities and domestic niche products in terms of economic, environmental and social impact on the region of origin. The results provide new evidence to make supply chains more sustainable.  

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Côte d’Ivoire: Sweet Temptation without a Bitter Taste

A Story by GIZ

Until Easter 2022, GIZ publishes a new episode every fortnight introducing people who are committed to fair and sustainable cocoa in Côte d'Ivoire and Germany.

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Fair Trade and Climate Justice: Everything is Conntected

A Contribution of the 'Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains' (INA)

Fair Trade organisations and the Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA) have launched the #ichwillfair campaign during COP26 to highlight the link between global supply chains and climate change.

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The fight against illegal fishing

A Report

The oceans are important for our food supply, but they are overfished. To halt this trend the global community is now taking action against illegal fishing. Journalist Jan Rübel spoke with Francesco Marí, a specialist for world food, agricultural trade and maritime policy at "Brot für die Welt," and others.

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Controversy: Do supply chains need liability rules?

Discussion about the potential supply chain law

The German government is struggling to pass a supply chain law. It is intended to address violations of human rights, social and environmental standards. What would the consequences be for business? A double interview with Veselina Vasileva from GEPA and economics professor Andreas Freytag.

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Do import restrictions really benefit the local poor in West Africa?

A contribution by Isabel Knößlsdorfer

Protectionist policies like tariffs supposedly protect domestic producers if they cannot compete with cheaper imported products. Some African countries have therefore opted to impose such import restrictions for a number of products. For the case of chicken imports in Ghana, this study analyses whether restrictions would lead to overall positive or negative welfare effects among households.

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Sang'alo Institute invests in farming of sunflower crop

A contribution by James Wanzala

Kenya is a large importer of vetable oils mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia - amongst them sunflower oil. Due to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, there were supply bottlenecks and food shortages, leading to less affordable vegetable oils in Kenya. As a response to the lack of supply, the Sanga'alo Institute of Science and Technology, took that impulse, teamed up with the GIZ and established regional cultivation and refinement of sunflowers.

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From field to fan shop: how to increase supply

A contribution by Jan Rübel

Organic cotton is extremely popular – but farmers still find it difficult to change their conventional cultivation methods. A new project addresses this dilemma: Bundesliga football teams in Germany are promoting the switch to organic cotton in India. And thereby setting an example.

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The Agri-Food Map: An interactive map to explore sustainable agri-food systems

A Contribution by GIZ

The complex interrelationships of the sustainable transformation of agricultural and food systems are not always easy to understand - the Agri-Food Map, an interactive online app, makes the comprehensive relations accessible by providing a wide range of comprehensibly prepared information.

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Strengthening the market linkages of smallholders in the face of global supply shocks

A Contribution by Niladri Sekhar Bagchi

The consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine have enabled many countries to open up new export markets for their agricultural goods. However, smallholder farms have been largely left out. Drawing on his experience in India, our author gives a brief overview of how this can be changed.

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The Principle of Sharing

A contribution by gebana

gebana, a Swiss fair trade company, follows the principle of "sharing" with its corporate philosophy: farming families in the Global South participate directly in the sales of their online shop. Caroline Schaar, Marketing at gebana, explains the company's approach.

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Nature conservation around the world

A Contribution by WWF

From measures to promote biodiversity in Germany to more sustainable cocoa cultivation methods in Ecuador: WWF works at many different levels. At the Green Week, it will be demonstrated just how multifaceted nature conservation work is and what role each individual's decision plays.

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From Coexistence to Collaboration

A Contribution by Initiative für nachhaltige Agrarlieferketten (INA)

The demand for sustainable products and supply chains is constantly increasing. DIASCA is an alliance that works on interoperability of digital solutions in agricultural supply chains through the development of open standards for forest monitoring, farm income and traceability.  

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The Idea of Coffee entirely made by Women

A Conversation with Allan Mubiru

Allan Mubiru was standing in front of a shelf in Kigali, Rwanda, and discovered a local type of coffee. He took it, tasted it and was thrilled. A story about a grocery shopping trip that became the beginning of a successful business idea.

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From the perennial to the catwalk – banana silk as an alternative

A Contribution by Paul Kadjo

The textile industry contributes significantly to environmental pollution as it produces over 100 billion garments every year, resulting in huge CO2 emissions and water consumption. Fashion designer Paul Kadjo uses banana silk as an environmentally friendly alternative to make textile production more environmentally conscious and socially just.

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Coconuts, Digitalization and the Future

An Interview with Ebun Feludu

Female founder Ebun Feludu wants to bring the coconut value chain to Nigeria with her start-up Kokari. In this interview, she explains why she envisions every coconut palm tree bearing its own name in the future and how digitalization can contribute to this.

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Africa's rapid economic transformation

A report by T. S. Jayne, A. Adelaja and R. Mkandawire

Thirty years ago, Africa was synonymous with war, famine and poverty. That narrative is clearly outdated. African living standards are rising remarkably fast. Our authors are convinced that improving education and entrepreneurship will ensure irreversible progress in the region even as it confronts COVID-19.

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"Without peace, there will be no development"

Interview with Karina Mroß (DIE)

What contribution does development cooperation make to conflict prevention? What can it do for sustainable peace? Political scientist Karina Mroß talks to Raphael Thelen about post-conflict societies and their chances for peaceful development.

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Frank Schultze / Agentur_ZS

The communicator

A contribution by Jan Rübel

What do electrical engineering, telecommunications and agriculture have in common? They arouse the passion of Strive Masiyiwa: Thirty years ago, he started an electrical installation company with $75, later riding the telecommunications wave as a pioneer. Today he is committed to transforming African agriculture.

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MarkIrungu /AGRA

Spiritual mortar for the young generation

A contribution by Jan Rübel

Fred Swaniker is working building a new era of leaders. And what about agriculture? ‘It needs to be more sexy!’

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Youth as key actors for a transformation of agri-food systems

Five Questions for Anke Oppermann

In October, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) adopted policy recommendations ‘Promoting Youth Engagement and Employment in Agriculture and Food Systems’. Anke Oppermann answers five questions on youth employment in the agricultural sector.

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Priscilla Impraim and her chocolate business

A contribution by Jan Rübel

Priscilla Impraim is one of the first women in Ghana to enter the chocolate business. Despite some hurdles, she founded the company Ab Ovo Confectionery Limited in 2006 with currently six permanent employees and 25 seasonal employees.

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Why organic is a „blessed” method

An Interview by Claudia Jordan

Three female entrepreneurs from Mozambique, Sri Lanka and Uganda tell their stories about starting organic businesses from scratch, now selling Baobab Oil, Gotukola powder and Shea butter in international markets. And they explain why their business is almost 100 percent female.

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Mozambique: How informal workers find jobs through an app

A Contribution by Leonie March

There are only about 1 million jobs in the East African country. The majority of the population works in the informal sector, and it can be difficult for them to find customers. Biscate offers a digital solution - without the need for internet, data or smartphones.

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Stepping into the future: How youth organisations are driving change

A contribution by Felix Chiyenda

Together they are stronger: In many African countries, young men and women are coming together to form youth organisations. These organisations help young people in rural areas to earn a living in the agricultural and food sector, creating prospects for the future in rural areas.

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